In response to Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds recommending Iowa schools close for four weeks to combat the spread of COVID-19, the city of Clarinda has also closed the Lied Center and Lied Public Library to the public for the same time frame.
“All along our plan was if the schools announced they would be closing, the library and Lied Center would also be closed down for public safety. If it is not safe enough for students for students to be in public schools, it is not safe enough for them to gather at the library or Lied Center. They say to avoid gatherings of 50 or more people at a time and we do have more than 50 people there at times,” Clarinda City Manager Gary McClarnon said.
Gov. Reynolds announced her recommendation to close Iowa schools March 15. McClarnon said he was surprised the recommendation came this quickly and was for such an extended period of time.
“Deep down I knew this was eventually going to happen, but I thought it may be another two weeks before the governor recommended shutting the schools down,” McClarnon said. “I did not think it would come this quickly. I was also surprised at the four weeks. I thought they would say two weeks and then reevaluate.”
McClarnon said discussions with Library Director Andrew Hoppmann and Clarinda Parks and Recreation Director Jebb Fish regarding the potential closing of those facilities started approximately three weeks ago. When the announcement was made regarding the closing of the schools, McClarnon said he notified Clarinda mayor Lisa Hull and the members of the Clarinda City Council of the decision to also close the Lied Center and library to the public.
“The mayor and council may be fielding calls I’m not aware of, but really there have been no negative comments about the decision,” McClarnon said. “I think everyone understands, if they have watched the news or been on social media, what an issue this is and how quickly it could explode. I think people are educated enough to understand what is going on.”
Clarinda City Hall is still open to the public, but McClarnon said local residents are being asked to only come into the facility if absolutely. Instead, he encouraged local residents to utilize the drop box outside the front door to pay utility bills or leave other paperwork.
“We are trying to limit exposure to the general public as much as we can. To complete permits or some other things people still have to come in, but we are practicing social distancing. We have also been cleaning and sanitizing City Hall for the last two weeks,” McClarnon said.
All full-time city employees are reporting to work as scheduled. They will continue to perform their normal duties except for having to wait on the public.
Should Clarinda Public Works Department members be out in the public working on projects, McClarnon said they would be keeping their distance from local citizens. He said the workers would also be completing projects at their shop if possible.
McClarnon said Hoppmann will also be utilizing some of his part-time workers for projects at the library. The use of part-time employees is at the discretion of the individual department heads, but for the most part McClarnon said works would not be receiving compensation.
“We feel full-time employees have enough work to do that they do not have to use their vacation or other forms of time off. Once this goes on for a while, and they have cleaned and sanitized the facilities and caught up on their future programming, we may have to sit down and talk about how we want handle it,” McClarnon said.
Overall, McClarnon said the city is still evaluating what the total impact of this situation could be. He said he would continue meeting with the department heads to ensure nothing is being missed in their efforts to help prevent the spread of the virus.
“It is amazing looking at maps how quickly it has spread. We understand why it is important to limit gatherings. If you don’t, it can spread so much faster. Healthcare provider cannot respond when they are slammed like that, so we are trying to do our part to spread it out for them,” McClarnon said.